Oct 122008
(asked by Tracie from Tucson, Arizona)

“Most American males do not say they love you until after the female has said it first. As Americans, we love to be loved and so we toss the word love around like awesome, or great. We say it to everything, people (family, friends, hairdresser, and other people that we don’t have an intimate relationship with, or family), food, hobbies etc. I was wondering if it is the same in France.”

It’s right that in France we don’t toss the word “love” around every five minutes like you do in the US. In France, “I love you” (or rather “Je t’aime”) means almost exclusively one thing and that is “I’m in love with you.”
You’ll very rarely hear “Je t’aime” said outside of a couple/lovers paradigm.
You don’t say it to your friends, definitely not to your hairdresser, even with family members it’s extremely rare (except maybe with young kids saying it to their parents and/or their parents responding).

I’m talking about the expression “Je t’aime” / “I love you” here, not of the verb to love that is used in many occasions when you love food, a movie, etc.

So how do you express that you love your friends? With other verbs… like “adorer” (which can mean to adore, but also to love) or by adding adjectives with a modal value as in “aimer bien”, “aimer beaucoup”, etc… But I won’t get into details here, we’re leaving the cultural dimension to enter the linguistic one.

In the couple context now, I feel like in France -along the same lines of the fact that there are almost no rules regarding dating and relationships in France- there isn’t so much hoopla about “I love you” and who says it first, after how long together and these kinds of things Americans love to bother themselves with in their love lives.

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